Three Nassau County police commanders conspired to scuttle the probe of a high school burglary committed by a teen whose father was a financial benefactor of police, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.
Prosecutors leveled conspiracy and official misconduct charges against the men whose careers took them to leadership positions in the Nassau police department: William Flanagan, second deputy commissioner; John Hunter, deputy chief of patrol; and Alan Sharpe, former deputy commander of the Seventh Precinct Squad.
Flanagan and Hunter retired Wednesday and Sharpe left the force in January.
The indictment states that Sharpe planted false information in a case file, while Flanagan accepted hundreds of dollars in gift cards from the father, a Manhattan accounting firm partner who prosecutors said is a "financial benefactor of the police."
In addition, law enforcement sources said an unidentified officer tried to dupe a principal whose high school was burglarized by the teen of $11,000 in electronics equipment into signing an agreement not to pursue charges.
The three commanders all pleaded not guilty at Nassau County Court in Mineola. Prosecutors said they are still investigating leads in this case, as well as related cases.
District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement that it was "a sad day for law enforcement in Nassau County."
"These defendants violated their oath and the law when they prevented a suspect's arrest and took investigative direction from the suspect's father," Rice said.
Lawyers for the three denied any wrongdoing and vowed that their clients would be exonerated. Gary Learned, president of the Superior Officers Association, the union that represents the men, also said he expected them to be cleared.
"It's hard to believe there was any sinister intent with any of the acts they took," Learned said.
County Executive Edward Mangano said he anticipates "that the district attorney and judicial system will provide for a fair and impartial process for these three former employees."
The police department declined to comment on the indictments.
Prosecutors said they began their investigation after the Long Island Press first detailed the department's handling of the burglary investigation in a March 2011 story.
A law enforcement source identified the father and son described in the indictment as Zachary Parker and his father, Gary Parker.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy stemmed from the May 2009 theft of electronic equipment from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore. An administrator there identified a suspect and told police that she wished to press charges and have him arrested.
The suspect, Zachary Parker, now 20, is believed to have taken audiovisual equipment, the law enforcement source said. The father "paid for lunches and dinners for high-ranking members of law enforcement from Nassau County and other agencies," the indictment states, that Hunter and Flanagan frequently attended. A law enforcement source said Parker paid $17,000 for the meals over several years and provided Flanagan with tickets to sports events.
Parker served on the Nassau County Police Department Foundation board from March 2010 until he resigned in April 2011, according to the foundation's executive director. The nonprofit foundation was set up in 2008 by then-Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey to raise funds to build a police academy.
Tax filings show that in 2010, Parker donated $110,000 to the foundation.
Neither Parker nor his son are mentioned by name in the indictment, though lawyers in the case identified them. Neither has been charged in the alleged conspiracy.
Gary Parker's attorney, Stephen Scaring, said, "Mr. Parker didn't do anything wrong. He's not accused of doing anything wrong." He said he had not seen the indictment and wouldn't comment further.
A grand jury indicted Zachary Parker last year on charges related to the 2009 theft and he was arraigned in the case in October.
Zachary Parker has had several scrapes with the law since May 2009. His lawyer, Marc Gann of Mineola, said, "I think he's basically a good kid who's done some stupid things."
There is a local case pending against Parker after he was found smoking marijuana with friends in his mother's convertible in Uniondale, prosecutors said.
There also is a case pending against him in Florida that involves prescription drug possession on a cruise ship, according to police documents and the Broward County district attorney's office.
A law enforcement source said Nassau police have run Parker's license plate 20 times. He was never given a ticket, the source said.
According to the indictment, Hunter was "instrumental" in getting Zachary Parker a civilian job in the police department's ambulance unit in 2008.
Over the spring and summer of 2009, the indictment alleges that Hunter, Flanagan, Sharpe and unnamed others worked to return the property that Zachary Parker had stolen, to persuade an administrator at the high school to refrain from pressing charges and to ensure that the teen avoided arrest.
In May, according to the indictment, the case initially was referred to the Internal Affairs Unit because Zachary Parker was a department employee, but Hunter intervened and the case was turned over to Sharpe's detective squad.
On May 30, Gary Parker asked in an email that Hunter get Sharpe and the "pd" to "lay low," according to the indictment. Hunter wrote back that he would "make sure that is done."
At one point, an unnamed detective went to the high school to speak with the principal and presented her with a pile of documents related to the case for her to sign, including a non-prosecution agreement, a source said.
The agreement was concealed in the pile, and the detective did not alert the principal to the fact that it was there, the source said. She noticed it, however, and refused to sign it, the source said.
On Sept. 9, according to the indictment, Flanagan sent an email to Parker to tell him the property had been returned. The indictment states, the father replied, "THANK YOU!!!!!" Flanagan wrote back, "de nada family."
The next day, according to the indictment, Flanagan accepted restaurant gift cards from Parker and acknowledged receipt of them in an email, calling the gesture "[o]ver the top." According to a law enforcement source, the value of the cards totaled at least $300.
Nine days later, the indictment states, Sharpe and an unidentified co-conspirator entered a memo in the department's computer system that falsely asserted a school administrator, on behalf of the district, did not wish to press charges in the burglary case.
The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District issued a statement Thursday, which read in part: "The district completed necessary forms to file charges against the perpetrator. The district has fully cooperated with the Nassau County district attorney's office investigation into the circumstances of this matter."
Flanagan, 54, of Islip, is charged with receiving reward for official misconduct, a class E felony, two counts of official misconduct, and conspiracy in the sixth degree. He faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted. His annual salary as of Dec. 31, 2011, was $224,929.
Hunter, 59, of Oyster Bay, is charged with two counts of official misconduct and conspiracy in the sixth degree. He faces up to 1 year in jail if convicted. His annual salary as of Dec. 31 was $177,874.
Sharpe, 54, of Huntington Station, is charged with offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree, two counts of official misconduct, and conspiracy in the sixth degree. He faces up to 2 years in jail if convicted and sentenced consecutively. His annual salary as of Dec. 31 was $138,776.
Regardless of how the criminal case unfolds, the men's pensions are protected by law, officials said.